The plot thickens. Mary let John Howard Payne know—in a way not all that dissimilar to the way Emily Foster had let Washington Irving know—that this “relationship” (Shelley & Payne) was just not going to happen.
But first, a little update. Early in my research, stumbling across this story about Irving and Mary Shelley—as well as the story of Irving and Emily Foster—I acquired a book, published in 1938: The Journals of Emily Foster. Here are a few entries from early in 1823:
• Mr. Irving is very interesting with his stories about his handsome Indians painting and pluming themselves [tales from his The Sketch Book] … he is neither tall nor slight, but most interesting, dark, hair of a man of genius waving, silky, & black, grey eyes full of varying feeling & an amiable smile—
• Mr. Irving is always with us entertaining & interesting—walks in the great garden ….
• May 19 (?), 1823: Our last evening with Irving—before his journey—Mama suspects he means not to return, he said he had thought of it but that he would he could not help it—We stood on the balcony by moonlight & talked of heaven.
I find myself incredibly touched by those last three words—talked of heaven. I’m fairly certain that what was in Irving’s mind at that moment was something quite different from what was in young Emily’s. She was thinking, I would guess, of the hereafter; Irving, of paradise lost.
Many years later—married to Henry Fuller, mother of five children—Emily, now 52, wrote to Irving at his home, Sunnyside, in Tarrytown, New York, a home along the eastern bank of the Hudson River (and now open to the public). She wondered if Irving would see her son, who was in America. Irving was thrilled.
You can scarcely imagine my surprise and delight on opening your letter and finding by the first lines that it came from Emily Foster! he wrote on July 2, 1856. He told her that he was leading a quiet life in a little rural retreat I had previously established on the banks of the Hudson …. And he ended with my dear “Emily Foster.”